This year, two animated features were released. Both of them were based on fairly major video game properties, but only one of them would go on to have an opening weekend of somewhere between $37 to $39 million in the US and an overseas gross of $112 million for a collective worldwide total of $151 million, despite mixed reviews. It has already made back its production budget ($74 million) and is well on its way to making back at least half of what the studios sunk into the marketing ($400 million combined).
That movie, unfortunately, was not Ratchet & Clank.
Ratchet & Clank, in comparison, was subjected to a critical thrashing (16% on Rotten Tomatoes) and painfully low box-office numbers, debuting at #7 with only $4.9 million.
A crushing disappointment for sure, but the film was only budgeted at $20 million. Surely the fallout wouldn’t be as bad as, say, the layoffs and write-downs at any of the other major animation studios. Right?
If recent reports are of any indication, all parties involved in the film are going to have it rough for quite a while.
For starters, Rainmaker Entertainment is expected to lose money on the film, with an impending write-down of approximately $10 million.
In addition to being the primary production house for the film, Rainmaker was also the primary investor, putting up 63% of the overall production cost (which included between $1-$4 million in advertising expenses).
$10 million might not sound like much compared to the number of write-downs that Disney and DreamWorks Animation both took for the under-performance of some of their films, but consider that Ratchet & Clank was designed as Rainmaker Entertainment’s gamble to become the next Illumination Entertainment: a mid-sized production house that can develop and produce its own animated features, each one a box-office knockout built on modest budgets.
This was the intention, according to Rainmaker’s president and chief creative officer Michael Hefferon, who issued a press statement in reaction to Ratchet & Clank‘s numbers: “We are obviously disappointed with the North American opening release results. The huge success of the Jungle Book, and continued strength of Zootopia, represented a loss of a large portion of the family market. Although support from the Ratchet & Clank fan base has been positive, the turnout for the film was not sufficient to overcome the highly competitive market place for the opening weekend of the film.”
But that’s not the only after effect resulting from the film’s critical and commercial failure (well, sort of). In another report, co-writer T. J. Fixman took to his WordPress blog in early April to distance himself from the film, although it’s not for the reasons you might think.
According to Fixman, he only came on to write the original draft of the film. He then left the project just two years prior to the film’s release (according to Michael Hefferon, the film was awaiting distribution at that time). Therefore, he credits the film’s co-director Kevin Munroe and fellow co-writer Gerry Swallow with the final screenplay: “If anyone deserves credit or accolades for the final product, it’s them.”
In his blog post, he mentions that he was busy on a number of film projects at numerous studios (this was well before he became a creative consultant for Hasbro and later signed on to write the screenplay for Sony Pictures Animation’s Popeye film). Thus, he decided to hand it off at a time when his contract on the film was already wrapping up.
That’s not to say that none of his work made it to the final product. He was still credited for the screenplay and, by his own admission, several of his plot points and jokes remain.
At the end of the day, I can only say that it’s unfortunate that Ratchet & Clank didn’t take off the way everyone wanted. Flaws aside, the film was one of the few rare attempts at a faithful and earnest translation of a beloved video game franchise. Save for next month’s Warcraft, I can’t think of any other video game movie released in theaters (live-action or animated) that at least succeeds by that standard.
There’s a reason why there aren’t many video game movies being made en masse like superhero movies are. Even at their most well-intentioned, Hollywood still has yet to discover a successful formula to emulate.
What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on the fallout? Is Ratchet & Crank still worth seeing in theaters?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes